Top 10 Wolf Pack games of the decade |

Top 10 Wolf Pack games of the decade

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Here are the Top 10 Wolf Pack football games of the past decade in chronological order . . .

WOLF PACK 31, BYU 28 (Sept. 14, 2002)

This victory, under head coach Chris Tormey at Mackay Stadium, was important because it was the first for the Wolf Pack over a big-time Division I school since the program jumped to Division I-A in 1992. Quarterback Zack Threadgill completed 28-of-37 passes for an incredible 410 yards against the Cougars. Threadgill, who had one of the more overlooked great seasons by a Pack quarterback in history, threw for over 300 yards during the 2002 season seven times. No Pack quarterback has thrown for as many as 410 yards since Threadgill’s memorable effort. The highlight play of the game was a 95-yard TD pass from Threadgill to Nate Burleson. It was truly a landmark victory because it proved that the Pack could compete and beat a prominent D-IA program. The Pack, losers of 28 of their previous 36 games going into the BYU game, had lost to BYU by 45 points in Provo, Utah just the previous season. The two teams haven’t met since that memorable 2002 afternoon and will renew the rivalry next season in Provo.

WOLF PACK 28, WASHINGTON 17 (Oct. 11, 2003)

Chris Tormey didn’t win a ton of games in his four seasons as Wolf Pack coach (he was 16-31), but he sure did enjoy a few memorable afternoons. The Wolf Pack’s stunning 11-point victory at Seattle in 2003 is one of the biggest wins in school history. It was the Pack’s first victory over a Pac-10 school (as the conference is currently comprised) since it beat Oregon and Arizona State in 1947. The Wolf Pack beat the Huskies with an incredible defensive effort, led by Jorge Cordova’s 4.5 sacks. This victory proved once and for all that a Pack team — even a mediocre Pack team — could compete with and beat a Pac-10 school even on the road.

WOLF PACK 22, UNLV 14 (Sept. 17, 2005)

This was obviously not the greatest Pack victory over UNLV in school history or the most impressive. But it was definitely one of the more meaningful because it broke a five-game losing streak to the Rebels. Yes, Pack fans, there was a time not too long ago when the Pack actually lost five games in a row to UNLV. Hard to believe, right? Well, it happened. Nothing all that memorable happened in the game except for one thing. The Pack finally got a chance to paint the cannon blue for the first time since 1999. The victory was important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which it gave the Pack a 16-15 edge in the all-time series. And, oh yeah, it set a tone of Wolf Pack dominance in the cannon game for the rest of the decade.

WOLF PACK 38, FRESNO STATE 35 (Nov. 26, 2005)

This is arguably the greatest victory in Chris Ault’s third era as Pack football coach. Fresno State came into the nationally televised game (ESPN) at Mackay Stadium ranked 19th in the BCS standings and 16th in the Associated Press rankings. They were the talk of college football that same week after losing in a classic game against mighty USC, 50-42. Fresno State also came into the game with a six-game winning streak against the Pack. The Pack beat the Bulldogs as Robert Hubbard rushed for 146 yards on just 16 carries. The victory also gave the Pack its only share (with Boise State) of a Western Athletic Conference championship in school history.

WOLF PACK 49, CENTRAL FLORIDA 48 (Dec. 24, 2005)

This game has grown in stature among great Pack victories with each passing year because it turned out to be the school’s only bowl victory of the decade. The Pack went to overtime to beat Central Florida on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl. It also turned out to be the Pack’s only victory in Honolulu in seven games this decade. The 49 points are the most the Pack has ever scored in 10 bowl games. It is also the second most points the Pack has ever scored in a postseason game, behind the 59 scored against Boise in the Division I-AA semifinals at Mackay Stadium on Dec. 8, 1990. B.J. Mitchell (178 yards, two touchdowns) and Robert Hubbard (126 yards, three touchdowns) each went over 100 yards rushing for the Pack. Quarterback Jeff Rowe’s (22-of-32, 254 yards passing) 4-yard TD run and Brett Jaekle’s all-important extra point was enough to win the game in OT.

WOLF PACK 27, UNLV 20 (Sept. 29, 2007)

In one of the more exciting games in this heated rivalry, the Pack beat the Rebels on a dramatic 43-yard touchdown pass from Nick Graziano to Kyle Sammons with 27.5 seconds left in the game at Mackay Stadium. Graziano, who would break his foot the following week against Fresno State and never start another game for the Pack, completed 20-of-38 passes against UNLV for 330 yards and three touchdowns. It is one of the top performances ever by a Wolf Pack quarterback in the Pack-Rebel rivalry. Graziano’s first touchdown pass of the game went for 90 yards to Mike McCoy to give the Pack a 10-3 lead.

BOISE STATE 69, WOLF PACK 67 (Oct. 14, 2007)

Yes, it was a Wolf Pack loss but it was also one of the greatest games in college football history. In Colin Kaepernick’s first start as a Wolf Pack quarterback, the Pack went to four amazing overtimes before falling on Boise’s blue turf in front of a thrilled ESPN audience. The numbers in this game are staggering: Luke Lippincott rushed for 187 yards and four touchdowns and Kaepernick nailed down the starting job for the next four years by rushing for 177 yards and passing for 243. During the game ESPN announcer Bill Curry exclaimed that Kaepernick was “the best young freshman quarterback I have ever seen in my life.”

WOLF PACK 35, LOUISIANA TECH 31 (Nov. 29, 2008)

The Wolf Pack secured a winning season and a second place finish in the WAC by rallying from a 17-point deficit (31-14) on the road in Ruston, La. It would be the only time all season that the Pack would rally from a second-half deficit to win a game. Down 31-14, Kaepernick tossed touchdown passes of 18 yards to Marko Mitchell and 27 yards to Mike McCoy. Vai Taua won the game with a 22-yard touchdown run.

WOLF PACK 37, LOUISIANA TECH 14 (Oct. 9, 2009)

This game makes the list not because of anything that happened on the field, though the Pack did play one of its most mistake-free (no turnovers) games of the season. This game is on the list because head coach Chris Ault earned his 200th career victory. Ault became just the 54th coach in NCAA history to reach the 200-victory mark by beating the Bulldogs at Mackay Stadium in front of an ESPN audience. It was a landmark victory not only for Ault but also for the program. The game itself featured an eye-opening, 67-yard touchdown run by Kaepernick as well as 107 yards rushing by Taua. Kaepernick had one of his most efficient passing games of his career, completing 15-of-21 passes without an interception for 166 yards and three touchdowns.

WOLF PACK 52, FRESNO STATE 14 (Nov. 14, 2009)

If you want to put a tape of a Pack victory since Ault returned to the sidelines in 2004 into a time capsule for future generations of Wolf Pack fans to enjoy, this might be the game. The Wolf Pack football team played one of its most complete games since the program jumped to Division I-A in 1992 when it whipped the Bulldogs this year at Mackay Stadium. Down 14-7, the Pack scored 45 unanswered points. They scored seven rushing touchdowns in winning for the seventh time in a row. Kaepernick and Taua each went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season in the game. Taua ran for 179 yards and Lippincott ran for 149. But this game was really about the defense. The Pack knocked Fresno’s Ryan Mathews, the nation’s leading rusher, out of the game on a jarring tackle by safety Jonathon Amaya and held Mathews to 32 yards on eight forgettable runs. The Wolf Pack defense also forced five turnovers and six different players had a sack.

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